Disability, Fraud and Medical Experience at the Royal Hospital of Chelsea in the Long Eighteenth Century

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Chelsea Hospital was lauded by its contemporaries as the honest rewards of service for the lower class soldier and this view of the Pensioners had considerable cultural capital, with a very similar image being presented in various forms of print culture, from the cheapest ballads to the more expensive essay literature. To some extent, this hagiographic attitude towards the Pensioners has remained in the existing historiography of the institution. However, implicit within the praise for these men was concern about the risk of maintaining those who did not fulfil this ideal. This concern was part of the much wider anxieties about the prevalence of fraud amongst the younger able-bodied parish poor. At Chelsea, many of these individuals were young and some presented themselves to the Hospital without visibly extreme disability. Their narratives were not known by their communities, and not known by those at the Board. This chapter looks at some of the lengths Chelsea went to when dealing with those with both obvious disabilities, and with those that were considered more ambiguous and therefore potentially fraudulent.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBritain's Soldiers: Rethinking War and Society 1715-1815
EditorsKevin Linch, Matthew McCormack
Place of PublicationLiverpool
PublisherLiverpool University Press
Number of pages201
ISBN (Electronic)9781781385548
ISBN (Print)9781846319556
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Chelsea Pensioners
  • Fraud
  • Disability
  • Administration
  • Army Pensions
  • Medicine
  • Charity
  • Poor Law
  • Poverty
  • Soldiers


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